From devo8080 via the comments: Do you see any scenario where Bagley comes back from injury off of the bench, or is he immediately slotted into the starting lineup?
Tim: I’ve seen some very realistic projections from some very smart people that would have Bagley coming off of the bench to start, but I think the Kings will feel the pressure to immediately insert him into the starting lineup. He’s a second overall pick who performed admirably in his rookie season, and his family and crew around him aren’t afraid to squawk to the media when they’re unhappy. I also think starting Bagley is the right move, as you need your most talented players on the floor to start the game.
Will: I don’t think it’s the worst idea to have Bagley come off the bench for the first game or so. The Kings have dug their way out of their early season hole mostly on the backs of great execution in the half court and leaning on their veterans that have been in the league long enough to implement that. Bagley’s had a lot of time to watch this unfold, but no time to actually play in it. Bagley getting his minutes off the bench allows him to come in and figure his timing out against a little lesser quality opponent without throw a monkey wrench into what has more-often-than-not been working. Bagley coming off the bench allows for a small window to experiment with lineups that Bagley could eventually start with. Bagley-Holmes? Bjelica-Bagley? Bagley-Dedmon? There’s going to be some tinkering needed. Then three or four games back he’s got the system down, they make their adjustments. He’s 20 with a much steeper learning curve and far more pressure on him than anyone currently playing on the team. Letting him figure it out off the bench could be a smooth move.
From Wonderchild via the comments: What parts of the team’s resurgent play are and are not sustainable for the rest of the season?
Tim: Bogdan Bogdanovic’s performance isn’t particularly sustainable. No one’s going to shoot better than 50% from the field and better than 50% from three-point range on eight three-point attempts per game. He’s probably going to settle down into a scoring range of 14 – 17 points per game and an accuracy of about 38% from deep. Those are still great numbers, but just not the explosion we’ve seen over the last half-dozen games or so. The defense and rebounding do feel relatively realistic, as those two categories have far more to do with engagement and effort than luck or skill. If the Kings continue to work hard on the defensive end of the floor, they’ll continue to see success.
Will: I’m expecting a drop off from Nemanja Bjelica at some point. The man has come in and been a season changer in his performance on the floor for the Kings and it would be unfair to not expect that drop off some. I wouldn’t expect to see his play drop nearly as hard as last year as the Kings seem to be operating at a slower pace, but a slow down is more than likely coming. In terms of what is sustainable, I think a lot of what Buddy Hield is doing is sustainable. He’s had to shot hunt more with Fox out and while he’s had some eye-popping games of late, I really don’t see him taking the Kings out of their offense too much to get those shots. I don’t think it’s Buddy’s destiny to ever be a #1 scorer on a playoff team, but he’s too gifted of a shooter to just be a #2 either. Until Bagley comes out as a tour-de-force in this league, Buddy might be our 1b option in waiting until a 1a presents themselves.
From RikSmits via the comments: Which teams have surprised you the most thus far (for good and for bad)?
Tim: As much as it pains me to say the (redacted), they’ve been incredible. I thought LeBron James and Anthony Davis would take some more time to adapt to one another, and their role players seemed like odd choices, but Frank Vogel has made it work by making L.A. a defensive-minded team first and foremost. Their 15-2 record speaks for itself. The (redactred) are title favorites in my mind.
From a most surprising bad team, I’ll ignore the Warriors due to their injuries and take the rare opportunity to pick on the Spurs. They’re 6-12 on the season as I write this, and even more shocking, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games, including defeats to the Grizzlies, Magic, Blazers, and Wizards. Health can’t be blamed either, as both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have both played for the entire season. I think this is the year the Spurs finally miss the playoffs and the front office trades the veterans this offseason.
Will: I think my two fun surprise teams this season are the Miami Heat and the Dallas I-Cant-Watch-For-Very-Personal-Reasons. The season is still young and I very much doubt they’ll be the #4 seed and #6 seed in their respective conferences at the end of the season but for teams that I really expected to be high lottery teams, it’s nice to see the ugly teams on paper succeed in reality.
I’m not surprised any team in the league is bad. I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see a full strength Warriors team get crushed all season long but that’s life.
From BJax#1 via the comments: Who starts next to Bagley when he returns. And who sits once Bagley returns, Harry or Dedmon?
Tim: I’ll answer this question in two ways. As far as who I believe Luke Walton will start when Bagley returns, it’ll be Richaun Holmes. Marvin isn’t yet capable of protecting the paint or banging with the bigs in the middle, so Holmes can play the role of enforcer in the key. In my perfect world, Bagley’s partner would actually depend on who’s running point. If the coaching staff continues to entrust Cory Joseph with the starting point guard duties, I don’t feel there will be enough spacing with a Bagley-Holmes pairing. That’s three non-shooters on the floor to begin the game, and opposing defenses will feast. You’ve got to get Bjelica in the rotation as another three-point threat. If Walton is willing to try Bogdan Bogdanovic as the primary ball-handler, Holmes would work as the pick-and-roll threat with Bogi, while Bagley could dominate the offensive boards and in the mid-isolation game.
Both Harry and Dedmon have been unimpressive to start the season, but I’ll take Dedmon’s rim protection and rebounding over Harry’s passing. I also believe there’s a higher chance of Dewayne’s shooting turning around than there is of Giles being ready for 20 minutes per night.
Will: Like Tim, I think there’s going to have to be greater adjustments to the starting line-up than just Marv’s partner in the paint. When Bagley starts, I’m going to assume they continue to run with Richaun Holmes at the center position until those two prove they don’t mesh well together. I’d expect to see a LOT of different front court lineups in the five to ten games after Bagley’s arrival as they try to re-sort who works best with who. The second half of this question is going to be a bit easier to answer. One of those men just got told his contract is up after the season and the other one was signed to a 3 year, 40 million dollar deal this off-season and was expected to be the starter on a team vying for the playoffs. The money is going to get the minutes.
From joeburg3 via the comments: If Bogi, Holmes, and Bjelica keep performing like the driving forces of this team, what does that mean for the future of the roster? Is it reasonable to expect we’ll keep all of them, plus Fox and Bagley?
Tim: There are several factors at play for each of these individuals, with the first being contract status. Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent, so the Kings have the right to match any offer thrown his way this summer, even if that means they go over the cap. They also possess the same rights for Fox and Bagley in the coming years. The good news for the front office is that only about four teams can make an unreasonably large offer to Bogi, but those franchises have multiple choices and multiple holes to fill on their rosters. There’s a decent chance that Bogdanovic gets squeezed by a tight market and the Kings get a good player on a relatively team friendly deal. But just as there’s not very much cap space available in July, there also aren’t very many quality contributors to be had. A possibility exists in which a team like the Atlanta Hawks or the New York Knicks gets a little frisky and throws a massive offer Bogdan’s way. From what I’ve calculated (and these are all very general estimates), the Kings can comfortably match anything up to the 4-year, $90 million range and still max Fox and Bagley in the future without having to worry too much about the luxury tax. In a worst case scenario, they may be facing a tax payment in the 2022-2023 season when Bagley’s five-year extension kicks in, but Harrison Barnes will be an $18 million expiring contract at that point, and he could probably be moved with relative ease – even if it took a salary dump in a similar way in which the Kings originally acquired him.
To the second part of the equation: Bjelica and Holmes are wholly different cases from Bogdanovic. The first thing to realize is that Nemanja has a team option for his $7.2 million contract come July. I do believe the Kings will opt into the final year of his deal, as they won’t save any cap space by letting him walk (they’ll be operating over the cap), and they won’t be faced with the luxury tax at that point either. An elite shooter with a high basketball IQ is going to go for a lot more than $7 million on the open market. Meanwhile, Holmes is locked in for one more year at $5 million, a ludicrously good rate for the Kings. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the Kings keep Bjelica this summer and don’t trade either individual, that they desperately want to keep both players, and we’ve now entered the summer of 2021. The first easy one is Bjelica. He’ll have spent three years consecutive years with the organization, meaning he’ll be eligible for Bird rights. The front office can go over the cap to retain him if they desire. That one’s done.
Richaun Holmes presents a little bit more difficulty. His two-year deal doesn’t make him eligible for bird rights, meaning the Kings would either have to sign him as an unrestricted free agent using cap space (which they won’t have) or using a cap space exception. The largest of those available to Vlade Divac would be the non-taxpayer, mid-level exception, which projects to be around $10 million in 2021. Holmes could be retained using money from that exception, and any leftovers, if there were any leftovers, could be used to acquire a second, lower-level player.
As far as what will actually happen, I think the Kings will retain Bogdanovic and Bjelica this summer, likely let Nemanja walk the following year due to future salary cap concerns, and potentially re-sign Holmes in a couple of years, depending on who else the team has acquired or drafted at the center spot. It’s entirely possible to keep all three players, as well as Fox and Bagley, it may not be likely, though.
From sj60615 via the comments: How many wins will it take to get to the 8th seed in the West?
Tim: Fewer than I believed at the start of the season. There’s quite a bit of parity between the 7 and 12 seeds in the West right now, and with several behemoths (Spurs, Warriors, Blazers) quieted to this point that parity may stay throughout the season. I’ll take a stab at a random answer and say 45 wins, about three fewer than I would have predicted in the summer.
Will: The bottom ten teams in the West are a menagerie of surprises and disappointments are while the parity is fun, it makes it even harder to predict an already difficult thing. An 8-10 game win streak from any team that is not the Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers, Rockets or Jazz could legitimately throw any team into the mix for not just an 8th seed but as high as maybe even the 6th. I’m going to say 43 wins will take the 8th seed this year and reassess after the All-Star Break.
From Randy Breuer’s Neck Hair via the comments: Who do you see as the King most likely to be traded in-season, and for what?
Tim: Dewayne Dedmon feels like a guy who could be moved once the December 15th restriction on recently acquired free agents is lifted. His shooting has been abysmal and the turnovers have been unacceptable, but teams can always use rim protectors who can also rebound the ball. Another franchise might look at Dedmon’s slow start and believe he can turn around his performance in their system. As far as a return on any sort of trade, I think the front office is going to look for win-now contributors, not draft assets or young players.
Will: I don’t think the Kings have enough confidence in our center postion outside of Richaun Holmes to trade Dedmon this season. I could very easily see a Yogi Ferrell and Trevor Ariza swap for small pieces or picks at the trade deadline as a playoff team looks to shore things up for a deep run. Yogi has been pushed to the side more than his fair share in his tenure and Ariza (who has been away for personal reasons) could always decide he’s George Hill-style ready to go elsewhere and ask to be moved.
From Dirkula via the comments: When the Kings aren’t playing, what is your go-to things to watch? Conversely, if the Kings were a TV show, what would you name it?
Tim: The best show on television/Netflix is The Great British Baking Show, and you can’t convince me otherwise. If you’ve already seen all of those episodes, I would recommend The Peaky Blinders (subtitles required), Broadchurch, The Fall, or Parenthood. For some “I don’t want to think, I just want to be entertained comedies, you can never go wrong with Arrested Development (original episodes only), Scrubs, The Office, or Veep.
Will: I watch too much to give a fully comprehensive list, so I’ll give a couple of my favorites since the start of the Kings season. I’ve been going through The Leftovers recently and am always truly surprised it didn’t have a bigger audience. It does drag the characters you care about through mud and broken glass for three seasons as they ask “Why?” but... it’s beautiful and poignant for the times we live in. Another Lindelof show I’ve really enjoyed is Watchmen. I think they’ve done a fantastic job of reading the tea leaves on where Alan Moore’s society might be in the time span they jumped and it’s an intensely entertaining world to get a glimpse into. For something lighter though: The Muppets on Disney+ is a show I mourned when it was cancelled and have been more than happy to rewatch now that it’s back out for me to stream. It’s basically The Office meets 30 Rock meets the Muppets and posits a PG-13 world where Ms. Piggy has a late night talk show and Kermit and Co. run the show. Kermit is Liz Lemon, Piggy is Jenna Maroney and it gets at least a couple of belly laughs from me an episode.
As for a shows centered around the team:
Last year might have been called: Where The Child Kings Are
the opening to this season might be: Another Bullshit Night in Sac City
and since both of those are inspired by book titles...
I officially proclaim this season be called: Red is the New Blue.